Saturday, January 29, 2011

What Will Matter? by Michael Josephson

What Will Matter?
by Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten
will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations
and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won't matter where you came from
or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin colour will be irrelevant.

So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought
but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success
but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned
but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity,
compassion, courage, or sacrifice
that enriched, empowered or encouraged others
to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence
but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when your gone.

What will matter is not your memories
but the memories that live in those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered,
by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident.
It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

Monday, January 24, 2011

East Asia Forum: Can Malaysia graduate?... by Hal Hill, ANU

Can Malaysia graduate?

East Asia Forum
January 19th, 2011
by Hal Hill, ANU

Malaysia is one of the developing world’s great success stories. Few countries outside of East Asia can match its development record. Since its independence over 53 years ago per capita incomes have risen more than eight-fold, and absolute poverty has been all but eliminated.

But it currently faces three key, interrelated challenges, some generic to upper middle income developing countries, others specific to Malaysia itself.

The first, how to graduate to the rich-country club, has been clearly articulated by the country’s Prime Minister, Tun Najib: ‘We are now at a critical juncture, either to remain trapped in a middle-income group or advance to a high-income economy … We now have to shift to a new economic model based on innovation, creativity and high value added activities.’

The second, shared by some of its Southeast Asian neighbours, is the country’s slower development trajectory since the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Even before the current global financial crisis, which it has navigated quite successfully, economic growth in the 2000’s was about two percentage points below that of the decade 1986-96.

Particularly worrisome is the slump in investment, which has been stuck at little more than 20 per cent of GDP since the late 1990s. This is 10-15 percentage points of GDP lower than the country’s historic ratio. With savings remaining buoyant, the country’s external position has been transformed dramatically. In 2002, the country had net liabilities equivalent to 35 per cent of GDP. By 2008, this had been transformed to net assets of 20 per cent of GDP. Put simply, Malaysians have been finding overseas investment increasingly attractive, while foreigners have been less attracted to Malaysia.

The third challenge relates to the development of high-quality institutions to underpin a modern market economy in a country that has experienced continuous one-party rule for over half a century. Malaysia’s ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) is in fact the world’s longest-serving governing party currently in power among all ‘quasi democracies’. Not surprisingly, elements of UMNO exhibit the problems of complacence and arrogance that one expects from entrenched one-party dominance.

Malaysia’s strengths are not to be underestimated. It has always been one of the most open economies in the developing world, to both trade and foreign investment. It has rarely had a severe macroeconomic crisis, in large part because of this openness. It derived a major early mover advantage from its adoption in the early 1970s of export oriented industrialisation through foreign direct investment, before it was fashionable to do so.

Among emerging economy manufactured goods exporters, it has progressed from 15th ranked and 1.2 per cent of the total in 1969-70 to 5th ranked and 5.2 per cent of the total in 2006-07. It is a major player in the global electronics industry. In 2006-07, it accounted for 3.8 per cent of global parts and components exports, in East Asia behind only the highly industrialised economies of China, Japan and Korea.

But Malaysia is struggling to shift out of low-skill activities, where it is no longer competitive with lower wage neighbours. These problems have been exacerbated by its vigourous promulgation of one of the longest running affirmative action programs in the developing world. Designed to redistribute employment and wealth to the dominant Bumiputera – principally ethnic Malay – community after the nasty communal conflict of May 1969, the so-called New Economic Policy (NEP) and its successors played an important role in promoting racial harmony in the country where there are large differences in living standards across racial groups.

But these programs have created a culture of entitlement, and they have resulted in institutionalised leakages that permeate practically every aspect of Malaysian commercial, social, political and educational life. The programs to advance Bumiputera development have benefited spectacularly the politically well-connected within this community, through preferential contracts, share allocations, and general commercial advancement, while all too little has trickled down to the general community. The programs can hardly be justified as anti-poverty programs when the principal beneficiaries are already egregiously wealthy.

As a result, some of the country’s industry policies have backfired. Malaysia might have been expected to be the leading Southeast Asian automotive producer, but Thailand has become the ‘Detroit of Asia’ owing to Malaysia’s disastrous national car program. In addition, the ‘spillover’ benefits from the large multinational presence in manufacturing have been limited by the fact that Malaysia’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), that are predominantly owned by the ethnic Chinese community, prefer to stay small, below the threshold above which Bumiputera employment quotas become mandatory.

The country’s public universities, once among the region’s best, have also slipped in East Asian rankings owing to these ethnic quotas as well as heavy bureaucratic control. The civil service is bloated and in need of reform, while there is a very large state enterprise sector that functions in a non-transparent manner and subject to little public accountability.

Moreover, Malaysia has missed out on emerging service sector opportunities owing to the slow pace of liberalisation in that sector, itself a product of the very large presence of state-dominated firms and the NEP-preference schemes. And the country continues to experience a substantial brain drain as a result of the exodus of skilled professionals from the Chinese and Indian communities.

It is fashionable in Malaysia to attribute its current malaise to China, a country that is able to out-compete Malaysia in low-end and increasingly a sophisticated range of manufactures. While the ‘export similarity index’ (that is the composition of their exports) for the two countries is quite high, and thus there has some been some loss of market share to China from Malaysia in third-country export markets, the notion that the rise of China explains Malaysia’s current difficulties is untenable. That view overlooks the positive sum game for Malaysia from China’s rise.

As a resource-rich economy, Malaysia has benefited from the general China-fuelled rise in commodity prices, for example its exports of palm oil and oil and gas. Similarly, commercial opportunities in tourism and education have been rising rapidly, with two-way investments rising very quickly. And Malaysia is a central player in the increasingly China-centred East Asian production networks that export to the world.

Hal Hill is HW Arndt Professor of Southeast Asian Economies at the Australian National University. With Tham Siew Yean and Ragayah Haji Mat Zin, he is co-editor of ‘Graduating from the Middle: Malaysia’s Development Challenges’, forthcoming in 2011.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

malaysiakini: Malaysia is world's No 5 in illicit outflows

Malaysia is world's No 5 in illicit outflows
Jan 20, 11 1:11pm
Malaysia is among the countries which registered the highest illicit financial outflows over a period of nine years in the last decade.

According to a ground-breaking report by Washington-based financial watchdog Global Financial Integrity (GFI), money flows out of Malaysia have more than tripled from 2000 to 2008.

The outflow from Malaysia in 2000 was RM67.7 billion (US$22.2 billion). Eight years later, this has ballooned to RM208 billion ($68.2 billion).

NONEThe report warned that the sharp increase of capital flight in Malaysia is “at a scale seen in few Asian countries”.

It said that it was difficult to point out the reasons behind this massive outflow of illicit capital - estimated at RM889 billion (US$291 billion) between 2000 and 2008 - without carrying out an in-depth study of Malaysia, which is outside the scope of the report.

“It is clear however that significant governance issues affecting both the public and private sectors have been playing a key role in the cross-border transfer of illicit capital from the country.

“For instance, there are reports in the Malaysian media that large state-owned enterprises such as Petronas could probably be driving illicit flows.”

The financial watchdog said that its research has indicated that political instability, rising income inequality and pervasive corruption are some of the structural and governance issues that could be driving illicit capital from many developing countries.

“In the case of Malaysia, the additional factor could well be the significant discrimination in labour markets which move people and unrecorded capital out of the country.

“As a result of some of these factors, the volume of illegal capital flight from Malaysia has come to dwarf legitimate capital inflows into the country in recent years.”

The GFI report, 'Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries', is penned by GFI economists Karly Curcio and Dev Kar, who is a former senior economist at the International Monetary Fund.

China tops the chart

China tops the chart among the world's exporters of illicit capital with a whopping US$2.8 trillion of outflows, followed by Russia (US$427 billion), Mexico (US$416 billion), Saudi Arabia (US$302 billion) and Malaysia (US$291 billion).

NONEOther Asian countries with high illegal capital flight are Philippines ($109 billion), Indonesia ($104 billion) and India ($104 billion).

GFI has identified deliberate trade mispricing - which allows companies to avoid paying taxes - as the major source of the illicit outflows.

“Trade mispricing was found to account for an average of 54.7 percent of cumulative illicit flows from developing countries over the period 2000-2008 and is the major channel for the transfer of illicit capital from China.”

However, bribery and theft are also major reasons for the outflows in many countries.

“Bribery, theft, kickbacks and tax evasion were the greatest conduit for the illicit financial flows from the major exporters of oil such as Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.”

The report found that about US$1 trillion flows out from developing countries to rich countries each year - a situation which resulted in many of these countries remaining perpetually poor.

GFI offers a silver bullet solution to stem the illicit financial outflows from developing countries - greater transparency.

“Increasing transparency in the global financial system is critical to reducing the outflow of illicit money from developing countries.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Speech by Ragunath Kesavan, Bar Council Chairman, at The Opening Of The Legal Year 2011

Speech by Ragunath Kesavan, Chairman of The Bar Council, at The Opening Of The Legal Year 2011 (15 Jan 2011)

Yang Amat Arif, saya dengan rendah diri memohom izin meneruskan hujah saya dalam Bahasa Inggeris.

My Lord,
I am honoured to speak not only for the Bar Council but also on behalf of the Sabah Law Association and the Advocates Association of Sarawak, who are represented here today with the presence of their respective Presidents, Datuk John Sikayun and Khairil Azmi bin Mohd Hasbie.

It gives me great pleasure to be able to address this distinguished gathering on the occasion of the opening of the 2011 Malaysian legal year.

A year on from the historic first ceremony in January 2010, we cannot rest on our laurels but must continually strive to improve the administration of justice and the rule of law in Malaysia. We cannot be satisfied with pioneering first steps, but must be sufficiently courageous to extend boundaries. This may transgress well-worn customs and traditions, and may find displeasure among those with vested interests in preserving the status quo. However, we cannot be inhibited by such considerations. If adjustments are required we must be bold and mature enough to stand up for such corrections purely in the interest of justice and fairness.

The introduction of court mandated mediation, court recording transcription services, structured and uniform case management directions and the introduction of the “New Civil and Commercial” courts have increased the efficiency of our judiciary. The changes brought about by Your Lordship have, by and large, been welcomed by the legal fraternity.

We were plagued with problems of public distrust and disdain of the judiciary for reasons of judicial indiscipline, alleged corruption even at the highest level of the judiciary, judge fixing, an administration system that had not been revamped for decades, inconsistent case management styles and directives issued at the whims and fancies of each judicial officer. The appointment of three inept and unacceptable chief justices post Tun Salleh Abas led to the near complete breakdown and destruction of our judiciary.

We can stand tall and reflect that we had firmly and consistently spoken out and acted against the massive decline in judicial independence.

Your Lordship had the most arduous task of instilling discipline, order and direction in the judicial system.

However, we caution that reform including the pace of such reform, must always be in tandem with the needs of all stakeholders, including the capacity of the judges, lawyers and court system. Speed alone cannot be the sole and overriding factor, for there must be no miscarriage of justice in the prompt completion of cases. In the matter of postponements and adjournment of cases, it is a critical part of the individual independence of judicial officers that they have sole control of cases before them, including the discretion whether or not to grant an adjournment because they must be guided by the need to do “substantial justice” between the parties.

The criminal justice system requires a much more detailed and tempered approach. The problems faced there are considerably different from those of the civil courts and expediting hearings may not entirely be in the public interest if this results in more instances of acquittals, or an accused is denied the right to a proper and full defence.

The paramount objective of the administration of justice must be to achieve qualitative justice in every instance. An excellent justice system requires a combination of a fair conduct of cases, their prompt disposal and well reasoned decisions so as to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done.

As we consider the challenges that lie ahead, we would do well to reflect on the following words, taken from Chapter VI of Machiavelli’s “The Prince”:

“. . . there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”

The reforms that have been implemented have resulted in a significant improvement in the quality of the administration of justice. We welcome such changes even though disagreements are bound to exist from time to time. We do not always agree or achieve consensus on issues but we have a good working relationship with the Judiciary and the Attorney General’s Chambers upon which we can build, and we look to continued constructive dialogue and discussion with both parties.

Judicial temperament

My Lord,
The life of a Judge requires independence of thinking and fearlessness of character. It is indeed a high challenge and a very lonely pursuit. A judge must be independent, impartial, conduct him or herself with integrity, act with propriety and must at all times ensure equality of treatment to all before the Courts.

We would do well to recall the one of the guidelines issued to AbuMusa al-Ashari, the then-Governor of the Iraqi port city of Basra, by Umar bin al-Khattab, the second Khalifa of Islam (13-23AH) (634-644 CE). The thirdh guideline reads as follows:

Treat the people equally in your court and give them equal attention, so that the noble shall not aspire to your partiality, nor the humble despair of your justice.

Judicial boldness

My Lord,
Our judges in taking their oath of office set out in paragraph 1 of the Sixth Schedule of the Federal Constitution undertake to …….“faithfully discharge [their] judicial duties in that office to the best of their ability, they will bear true faith and allegiance to Malaysia, and will preserve, protect and defend its Constitution.

The judiciary must boldly uphold this duty to adjudicate any dispute before it guided solely by the Federal Constitution. In all such deliberations, the underlying principles of the rule of law must remain fundamental and omnipotent.

In many jurisdictions, it is the Courts that lead in expanding the rights of individuals and curbing the excesses of the executive. In 1995, the South African Constitutional Court in the celebrated case of The State v T. Makwanye and M. Mchunu held that the death penalty breached the “right of life” provision contained in the Section 9 of the South African Constitution. Significantly, the Court did not abdicate its constitutional role and leave it to the legislature to abolish the death penalty.

An independent judiciary is an indispensable element of a working democracy as it is not beholden to constituents who elect it into office. There are no shackles of loyalty to any particular group and therefore the Judiciary can and must fulfil its primary duty of upholding the Federal Constitution. Judges must rule on the basis of the law within the context of the Federal Constitution and not be influenced by public opinion and they must be indifferent to pressures of the times.

My Lord,
We have our own challenges, Shamala Sathiyaseelan v Dr. Jeyaganesh C. Mogarajah was a recent matter before the Federal Court, involving essentially conflict of laws between the separate jurisdictions of Syariah and civil laws, in respect of the custody and guardianship of children arising out of the conversion of one spouse to Islam.

This matter presented the Court with a clear occasion to resolve fundamental questions that affect public interest. The Federal Court refused to decide on the matter, on the basis that Shamala, by leaving the jurisdiction with her children, was in contempt of an earlier High Court order giving the father the right of access to the children.

The Federal Court abdicated its role as the ultimate arbiter in this dispute. Politicians have dithered and wavered in looking for a solution, pandering to the various interest groups. The Federal Court missed this opportunity to lead the way and set down the law in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

The Judiciary ought to have stepped in to fill the legal lacuna. The Court must fulfil its responsibility to right an injustice, no matter how difficult or divisive the issues are.

In PP v Anwar Ibrahim, the Federal Court rolled back statutory amendments introduced in Section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code to augment the rights of accused persons. By enacting this provision that imposes a statutory duty on the prosecution to provide documents to the defence prior to the commencement of trial, Parliament made it plain its intention to level the playing field between the prosecution and the defence.

In a regrettably regressive decision, the Federal Court refused to allow the defence access to documents other than the usual basic documents pre-dating the amendments. The full and timely disclosure of documents and statements would surely assist in a speedy disposal of the trial. More crucially, courts must exercise their discretion in favour of enhancing an accused person’s right to a fair trial, and increasing transparency and fairness in the country’s criminal justice system. Non production of documents and information merely gives rise to the perception, in the public mind, of a cover up and will not assist in enhancing public confidence in the criminal justice system.

Access to justice

My Lord,
Access to justice remains a central priority for the Bar Council. Currently, too many persons are unrepresented in criminal trials, a situation that is very troubling. With the coming into force of the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code formalising plea bargain and introduction of pre-trial conferences, it will be critical to ensure that legal representation is provided to all accused persons.

Constitutional guarantees of the right to legal representation are meaningless if one is unable to access legal representation because of insufficient means. All developed nations have in place some form of a comprehensive legal aid structure for those who cannot afford legal services. This has not been quite the case in Malaysia.

We are proud to be one of the few law associations in the world that runs a fairly comprehensive legal aid scheme funded solely by a levy imposed on all our members. However, in order to be effective, any legal aid system that is introduced must be sustainable, and far more comprehensive than the current Bar Council legal aid scheme has the means to be.

We are therefore heartened by the establishment of a national legal aid foundation, to be known as Yayasan Bantuan Guaman Kebangsaan, a collaborative effort involving the Government, the Malaysian Bar, and the private sector. The Foundation will be an independent body that will fund the provision of legal aid, enhance services for lawyers to represent those needing legal representation, determine the guidelines for the administration of the national legal aid scheme, and initiate and carry out educational programmes designed to promote understanding amongst members of the public of their rights and duties under the laws of Malaysia. The Foundation will focus on obtaining representation for persons from the point of arrest to court hearings – and those who do work for YBGK will be remunerated.

I must place on record our greatest appreciation to the learned Attorney General for his relentless push and the efforts of his officers in setting up the the Foundation.

We are also heartened that the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Ismail Omar at a recent dinner he had hosted for the Bar Council emphasised the need for all stakeholders to work together to improve our criminal justice system. The Inspector General had also reiterated that human rights and the rule of law must be an integral part of the criminal justice system. His commitment that the Police will work in tandem with the Foundation is most welcome.

Justice for all

It is important to understand and accept that the future of Malaysia must be built on a multi-racial, multi-religious approach of respect and acceptance.

Ultimately we have to ask ourselves this question: What kind of country do we want to be? In order to answer this question, we have to understand the rules and regulations that govern the relationship between the government and the people. We need to go back to the basics.

One of the most important projects the Bar Council had undertaken in the last two years is the “MyConstitution” campaign, where the Constitutional Law Committee of the Bar Council has gone round the country to promote knowledge and understanding of the Federal Constitution. The aim is to create awareness and to simplify the Constitution for all, and to empower the people to take charge of the Constitution, which is rightfully the peoples’ document.

The campaign projects the essence of democracy in which the government, whatever its political composition, is bound by a higher set of rules, embodied in a constitution. Although democracy is based on the principle of the rule of the majority, at the same time, democracy also requires that the rights of minorities are safeguarded.

We affirm the two tenets of the Rukunegara which are relevant here, namely “Keluhuran Perlembagaan” or “the Supremacy of the Constitution” and “Kedaulatan Undang-Undang” or “Upholding the Rule of Law”.

The way forward is to assure the people that there is a place for everyone in Malaysia regardless of race or religion. This assurance must be reiterated not only by the government of the day but by all of us.

We must believe and must commit and unite in our efforts to build a nation that progresses on diversity.

We have consistently, over the years, reiterated that our objective is the betterment of Malaysia. We want to see a Malaysia coming together in unity of purpose, through upholding the rule of law and the Federal Constitution.

I stand here to reaffirm and reiterate that we shall proceed to uphold the Rule of Law without fear or favour.

We accept and understand that there is so much more to be done and we strive to remain independent and engage and interact with any and all groups, with the objective of building a stronger and better Malaysia for all.


My Lord
As we collectively mark the first anniversary of the Opening of the Legal Year on a Federal level, I must take this opportunity to record our appreciation for Your Lordship’s openness, humility and tireless effort to achieve change which has resulted in a renewed vigour in the judiciary. Your Lordship has always been approachable and sympathetic to the issues we have raised, and Your Lordship has always been open to criticism.

We welcome this new judicial environment, and want this to continue, as it is vital that all of us work together for a common objective, that of strengthening and enhancing our judicial system, towards a better Malaysia. We are committed to supporting this process, and look forward to opportunities for us to contribute in this regard.

We shall continue to uphold the rule of law and to act in the best interest of Malaysia.

It remains for me on behalf of the Bar Council, the Advocates Association of Sarawak and the Sabah Law Association to wish you good health and every happiness in the New Year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

We have to speak up.... by P. Ramakrishnan, President of Aliran

We have to speak up

by P. Ramakrishnan
President of Aliran
12th January 2011

JAN 12 — We have every reason to be concerned. We wonder where this nation is heading for and what is in store for us.

From the civil servant to the Umno politician, it is the same story: The non-Malays are “pendatang” (immigrants) and don’t have any citizenship rights. The rights conferred by Article 8 of the Federal Constitution are not respected or protected.

When an extreme group like Perkasa questions the citizenship rights of the non-Malays, the national leadership does not take them to task.

When extreme elements in Umno berate and denigrate the non-Malays, the top Umno leadership does not chastise them.

When one Umno delegate at the recently concluded general assembly had the temerity to suggest that the non-Malays be given the right to do business but should be denied the right to vote, nobody pointed out that it was against the constitution and that he should not be talking through his nose!

It is this disturbing silence when atrocious things are said which affect our unity that is worrying. It is this unbecoming conduct that encourages the extreme elements amongst us to be outrageous in their conduct and prompt them to continue with their seditious remarks.

It is this vocal minority that is predominant in our society and influences the trend of policy. Our political leaders dare not condemn them outright.

Utusan Malaysia fans the race-baiting and gives the widest publicity without bothering to be responsible or sensible. When the powers-that-be that own and control this press do not force it to fall in line, what do we make of this?

A nation can make or break depending on the unity of its citizens. Today our unity is threatened. And if concerned voices and responsible leaders and caring Malaysians do not rise up and speak up, we will be a fragmented nation.

By our silence, we will contribute to the chaos that may ensue.

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior... By AMY CHUA

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

By AMY CHUA The Wall Street Journal, The Saturday Essay, JANUARY 8, 2011

Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.”

By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle.

Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

I’ve thought long and hard about how Chinese parents can get away with what they do. I think there are three big differences between the Chinese and Western parental mind-sets.

First, I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.

For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child “stupid,” “worthless” or “a disgrace.”

Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child’s grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher’s credentials.

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it. (And when Chinese kids do excel, there is plenty of ego-inflating parental praise lavished in the privacy of the home.)

Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it’s probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it’s true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

By contrast, I don’t think most Westerners have the same view of children being permanently indebted to their parents. My husband, Jed, actually has the opposite view. “Children don’t choose their parents,” he once said to me. “They don’t even choose to be born. It’s parents who foist life on their kids, so it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide for them. Kids don’t owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids.” This strikes me as a terrible deal for the Western parent.

Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences. That’s why Chinese daughters can’t have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can’t go to sleepaway camp. It’s also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, “I got a part in the school play! I’m Villager Number Six. I’ll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I’ll also need a ride on weekends.” God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that Chinese parents don’t care about their children. Just the opposite. They would give up anything for their children. It’s just an entirely different parenting model.

Here’s a story in favor of coercion, Chinese-style. Lulu was about 7, still playing two instruments, and working on a piano piece called “The Little White Donkey” by the French composer Jacques Ibert. The piece is really cute—you can just imagine a little donkey ambling along a country road with its master—but it’s also incredibly difficult for young players because the two hands have to keep schizophrenically different rhythms.

Lulu couldn’t do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.

“Get back to the piano now,” I ordered.
“You can’t make me.”
“Oh yes, I can.”

Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day.

When Lulu said, “I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?” I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn’t even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn’t think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn’t do the technique—perhaps she didn’t have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?

“You just don’t believe in her,” I accused.
“That’s ridiculous,” Jed said scornfully. “Of course I do.”
“Sophia could play the piece when she was this age.”
“But Lulu and Sophia are different people,” Jed pointed out.

“Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

Lulu realized it the same time I did. I held my breath. She tried it tentatively again. Then she played it more confidently and faster, and still the rhythm held. A moment later, she was beaming.

“Mommy, look—it’s easy!” After that, she wanted to play the piece over and over and wouldn’t leave the piano. That night, she came to sleep in my bed, and we snuggled and hugged, cracking each other up. When she performed “The Little White Donkey” at a recital a few weeks later, parents came up to me and said, “What a perfect piece for Lulu—it’s so spunky and so her.”

Even Jed gave me credit for that one. Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it’s a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment.

By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

—Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of “Day of Empire” and “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.” 

Commentary (DQ):
Amy Chua, a Filipino-Chinese USA emigre Yale Law professor, writes controversial perspectives on Asia as well as fairly slanted but quite convincing and selective stereotypes about the Chinese diaspora. 
Her World on Fire & Day of Empire, paints a rather stark if politically correct and to my mind somewhat contrived communal rapacity of immigrant ethnic groups across the world including of course the Chinese, Jews, Lebanese, etc. 
Here's another over-the-top stereotyping, which describes all the childhood restrictions, my wife and I don't practise at all, so I guess we're atypical. Or are we really, or is it just her and her warped sense of finding meaning in another personally-constructed world of American exclusivism or uniqueness?!

Malaysian Digest: Open Letter to Chua Soi Lek.... By Kee Thuan Chye

Open Letter to Chua Soi Lek

By Kee Thuan Chye
Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Dear Soi Lek,

You are a highly educated person and one with the ability to think. As such, you are probably aware that the welfare of this nation rests on more than just the MCA winning its share of seats at the next general election and remaining in the coalition that holds the power to decide the fate of Malaysia.

You are probably aware that the way forward for Malaysia is renouncing the way of the Barisan Nasional, led by Umno, falling back on an outdated decades-old formula. And that if you and the MCA continue to collude with the other parties in BN to retain power, you are subscribing to practices that could lead the nation to racial rifts and economic ruin.

Would you not agree with me that at this point in our history, as we stand at this crucial crossroads deciding which is the best path to take, national politics should no longer be race-based?

If you do agree, what then is the rationale for the MCA to continue to exist as an ethnocentric party?

What is the rationale for you and your party members to stick with Umno which avowedly fights for the Malays and the MIC which avowedly fights for the Indians?

How long more do you see this ethnocentric equation taking hold of the lives of Malaysians, causing strife from time to time when disputes arise over who should get what and how much? We’ve had 53 years of that; isn’t it enough?

Which is more important for you and your MCA colleagues: To stay on in BN in order to reap the rewards of being in government positions, or to do something that will ensure the honour and integrity of your party and of yourselves? I cannot tell you what that thing is which you could do to gain rectitude. You have to find it yourself.

But as you search for an answer, perhaps you would like to reflect on how strong the MCA’s position really is within the BN coalition for the party to achieve its aims. Are you, for instance, contributing to inter-racial understanding and harmony? How could that be when you have to speak up against any threat to the position of the Chinese? How could that be when Umno must speak up against any perceived threat against the Malays?

It’s a game full of contradictions, isn’t it? You can’t have one and the other, can you? In fact, your attempts over the past several months to speak up for the Chinese – indeed, for the country as a whole – clearly illustrate this.

Last August, after the Malaysian Chinese Economic Congress, when you called on the Government to gradually remove the 30 per cent Bumiputra equity in all sectors of the economy, you were immediately jumped upon by Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin. He even warned you about May 13.

A few days later, in your interview with a Malay-language newspaper, you had to soften what you had said, clearly showing your vulnerability.

Even Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein told you to “stick to the struggles of BN”. What are they? Do you know?

You were even a target of criticism at the Umno general assembly last October. A delegate slammed you for saying that the social contract should not be discussed openly.

Then at the BN convention last month, you called for a ban on the use of the term “Ketuanan Melayu”, and you told Umno it should not approve government policies during its supreme council meetings. But straight away, Hishammuddin said you had upset many BN leaders, including those in the MCA.

This boggles the mind. What you said was absolutely right – how could Umno take it upon itself to decide on government policies when it is only one of the component parties of BN? Does the MCA have no say? So how could MCA leaders be upset by what you said? Have they become Umnofied themselves? Have they become slaves of their masters? Or, as former Perak menteri besar Nizar Jamaluddin said, “running dogs”?

If so, what dignity is left in them? And in you, if you continue to serve the MCA within the BN fold?
Isn’t it obvious, too, that what you say doesn’t count for “doodley-squat”, as the American novelist Kurt Vonnegut would call it?

To be brutally honest, what good is your speaking up when you are still within the same cabal and your partners not only disagree with you, they don’t respect what you say?

As you have probably been informed, people outside don’t give much credence to your speaking up, anyway. They think it’s just a sandiwara act to merely give the impression that you are standing up for what is right. But it’s just an act.

I admit that going by the issues you have been bringing up recently, you are highlighting the fact that things are not being done right, and that your political partners should be held accountable. I might even hazard that you are at least concerned. What I fail to see, though, is your commitment.

For instance, at the MCA general assembly last October, Umno president Najib Razak told your party right within your own premises to be less communal and less demanding. Did you have an answer to that? Did you tell him in return to ensure that Umno would be less communal too? Did you tell him that the MCA was not being more demanding, that it was merely asking for what is guaranteed all Malaysians?

You see, I believe you know what is right for the country, but you are not willing to go all the way to ensuring that what is right prevails. If you were, you would not continue with the current regime. You would press for reform.

Surely, you would not disagree with me if I said the judiciary needs to be independent, that it needs to regain the trust of the people? The same with the police, the mainstream media and the civil service?

Surely, you would not disagree with me if I said our education system needs to be totally revamped to institute quality and regard for merit?

Surely, you would not disagree with me if I said that the way we award government projects needs to be transparent to eliminate cronyism? Or is that too tough a call after your appointment as Penang Port Commission chairman, a move that raised many eyebrows?

Above all, surely you would not disagree with me if I said we need a government that is clean; tells the truth; follows the rule of law; uses public funds for the people’s sake rather than for its own; and upholds the country’s institutions rather than abuses them for its own advantage?

Do we have such a government today?

If we did, you would not have said what you said last Dec 5 – when you called for each BN component party to have an equal voice and to share power “genuinely”; when you said BN had to change to be inclusive, multi-racial and to put the people first.

I know how to read between the lines, Soi Lek, and what you said that time said a lot about the coalition your party is part of.

Do you think it is capable of responding to your calls for change? Right now, looking just at the Cabinet line-up, we can see what a far cry it is from the days of Tunku Abdul Rahman. Will we ever see an inclusive government that has non-Malay ministers for the portfolios of Finance, Trade and Industry, or Defence? That no longer looks at skin color but at ability, integrity and character?

I think you might better serve the people by taking the first step that leads away from race-based politics. If you choose to do that, you will be blazing a trail. And that could bring honor not only to you but your party as well. Unless, of course, you’re a politician first and a public servant last. Then all I’ve been saying here would be worth doodley-squat.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Where the mind is without fear: A Tribute to my beloved father, FAN YEW TENG... By Lilianne Fan

Where the mind is without fear: A Tribute to my beloved father, FAN YEW TENG

By Lilianne Fan

I was at my father’s side when he passed away peacefully on 7 December 2010, at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. He had been diagnosed with advanced cancer at the same hospital almost exactly a year ago. Finding words after the loss of one’s beloved father is one of the hardest things to do.

And yet, our family has been receiving a healing river of words from near and far, from my father’s many friends and men and women whose lives he had touched through his life. These words have brought us comfort through our grief, and for this we are deeply grateful.

My father was a blessing, an inspiration and an absolute joy. He was deeply loving and devoted to our family. While he had a tendency to sometimes be protective as a father, he was also persistently provocative, incessantly reminding my sister and I to live boldly, to never be afraid of pushing boundaries in the name of our principles and dreams.

Since we were very young, Papa was our principal source of cultural exposure and civilizational education. He introduced us to the music of Edith Piaf and Om Kalsom, the writings of Rabindranath Tagore and Hannah Arendt. His mind was epic and encyclopedic, philosophical and poetic; his historical memory as impressive as his passion for justice was inextinguishable. The shelves, tables and floors of his bedroom and study were always overflowing with books, the walls adorned with portraits of his many heroes— Bertrand Russell, Frantz Fanon, Leo Tolstoy, George Orwell, and Nelson Mandela.

Papa’s deep humanism shaped us from an early age, as did the context into which our lives unfolded. Because he and my mother raised us in an intellectually-, politically- and socially-engaged household, we were exposed early on both to humanity’s creativity and promise, as well as the realities of oppression and injustice.

Papa was through and through a public intellectual. Like the philosophers of Ancient Greece, Papa believed that the hallmark of the citizen was versatility in knowledge and a constant striving for the advancement of one’s political community. He disdained material wealth and believed that, in the words of the Stoic philosopher Seneca, “it is the mind which makes men rich”.

He was deeply concerned with the dilemmas of his time, first and foremost in Malaysia, but also internationally. He was fearless and fiercely independent, preferring to stand outside society’s institutions to raise ethical questions and critique from a position of total impartiality.

As we were growing up, we would spend hours with Papa taking long walks around Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, visiting his favourite second-hand bookshops and coffee-shops, listening to stories of his old schoolmates at Brinsford Lodge, teaching in Kuala Lipis and Tanah Merah, the spirited years with the DAP, and his epic land and sea journey from Port Klang to Madras and New Delhi, through Afghanistan, Iran, and Yugoslavia to join our mother in Cambridge in 1975.

Papa would often read us drafts of his articles, fresh off the carriage of his beloved manual typewriter, and these were the primary source of our education on local and international politics. He would also involve us in many of his anti-war campaigns, from his mobilization against the Gulf War, to peace and solidarity activities for Bosnia, East Timor, and Sri Lanka.

Papa’s tireless solidarity with struggles for justice and democracy around the world deeply influenced my own work on peace, human rights and international humanitarian law, as it was he who taught me that each of us has a responsibility to speak up against injustice in every manifestation, wherever we may encounter it.

When I began working with refugees from Aceh in 1999, Papa was strongly supportive, always ready to participate in a campaign, or to offer me strategic advice and lessons in political history, just as he was when my work later took me to Burma and Haiti.

Even as he mastered the power of the spoken and written word, Papa also grew increasingly to respect the power of the sacred word and prayer. In this sense, he also became a spiritual mentor, whose daily practice taught us in a very direct way the meaning of faith.

Until his last days he would make sure that he said a prayer of safe passage for us each time we travelled, even while he was bed-ridden over the past few months. Throughout his illness, Papa would continue to be more concerned by the suffering of others than his own.

One day, just a few days after undergoing an operation, he told me, “My dearest, I have seen a world with endless possibilities of freedom, to which most people remain blind. The world would be a better place if people would help to set each other free. Please go and help them.” Even at the heights of his sickness, he never complained about his own condition; he only regretted that his illness limited his ability to defend those still suffering from oppression.

I know that I will always miss each and every moment that we shared together. But what I will certainly miss most are the moments of quiet simplicity, when words were not necessary:

- The mornings when I awoke to find him seated at the garden table, glowing in the gentle sunlight, whistling to the birds who were his constant companions;

- Resting my head upon his chest, feeling his hand stroke my hair gently, knowing that we would protect each other forever;

- Silently watching him each day with the deepest esteem as he would light a tea-candle at the altar in our home, lowering his head in prayer for our family and for the world.

With each day since Papa’s passing, I am coming to realize that surviving the death of a loved one is not about being left behind by the one who has died. Rather, it constitutes the binding of the living and dead to each other, and to the past, present and future, through a continuous act of love.

“Survival”, in the words of the late philosopher Jacques Derrida, “is at once the essence, the origin, and the possibility… (it is) the life beyond life, the life that is more than life… the most intense life possible.”

I miss Papa more than words could ever express. But I know that he is free, that he is at peace, and that he is in the heart of God. We know that he is, and always will be, present with us—protecting, guiding and loving us at every moment. To have had him as a father has been my greatest honour; to be his daughter, my greatest joy. It is with profound reverence that we, his children, inherit his vision and dreams, and assume the responsibility of keeping his legacy alive.

I know it would have been Papa’s hope that every one of us to continue working towards a Malaysian Malaysia, a nation founded on justice, democracy, and accountability to each and every one of its citizens, compassionate to those who seek refuge upon our shores, a model of pluralism in an increasingly divided world.

He would have wanted each of us to keep fighting against the blatant inequality and discrimination that have been so entrenched in our legal, political, social and economic institutions; to resist and uproot the decay in our political culture; to keep on walking the long road to justice and true independence. To become a nation, in the words of Rabindranath Tagore:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”
Let us keep this dream alive; let the struggle continue.

Note: Eulogy by Sdr Fan Yew Teng’s daughter, Lilianne, at memorial tribute services for Sdr Fan in Kuala Lumpur on 5th January 2011 and in Ipoh on 6th January 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

mysinchew: A gun for hire I am not — by Tunku Abdul Aziz

A gun for hire I am not — Tunku Abdul Aziz

mysinchew: January 08, 2011

JAN 8 — One of the crucial qualifications required of a politician, even one subsisting on the fringe of the magic circle such as I, is a capacity to develop a thick hide, quickly, to absorb, withstand and endure cheerfully the innuendos, aspersions and imputations of improper motives that will assuredly come his way whatever he does, says or writes.

Although I am much the same person that I was before I made a conscious personal decision to throw in my lot with the DAP, I am today viewed with a degree of suspicion.

Some of my readers believe that I write as a party propagandist, yet others are of the view that I should refrain from commenting on the shortcomings of the Pakatan Rakyat, and worse, I should not say anything that might cast a shadow on my own party image.

I write as an independent columnist and comment on issues of the day as I see them, motivated not by sycophancy, as accused by a New Straits Times leader writer and others of his ilk or out of a misguided sense of loyalty to my own party, no matter what.

I despise anything that smacks of the putrid odour of decaying doctrinaire with its cultivated blindness to the importance of critical thinking. I am not a party political spin doctor. For that you must turn to APCO.

Last week when my article on the ban imposed by the Selangor state government on the use of the 1 Malaysia logo on advertising material came out, I was inundated with hostile reactions which led me to conclude that the Age of Reason, at least in political terms, has bypassed Malaysia. “My party right or wrong” must have no place in the larger reckoning of our plan for Malaysia.

As for airing my party sensitive criticisms “through proper channels”, my detractors need to be reminded that I comment as an independent writer, and not as a party hack.

My own stand on 1 Malaysia is on record. I have opposed it from Day One, not because it had come out of the fertile imagination of Najib, or out of a strong uncontrollable doctrinal madness to oppose it for its own sake, but I did not believe that without his spelling out the social, political and economic policy underpinnings, it could amount to anything at all. He has not succeeded in convincing anyone that at the core of 1 Malaysia is equal opportunity for all.

1 Malaysia is not altogether without any virtue: racial unity is a perfectly honourable and desirable aspiration, but what we are waiting to hear from Najib is his elucidation in the clearest possible terms how he proposes to shift 1 Malaysia from the aspirational to the practical.

For me, on the basis of what Najib has articulated so far, 1 Malaysia must perforce remain in the realm of sloganeering.

On the level of the abstract, 1 Malaysia is fine, but after more than a half-century of Merdeka, let us get to grips with what we all really want in the long term to ensure the sustainability of our multiracial society.

1 Malaysia as 1 Malaysian Malaysia offers a greater chance of success and will have the overwhelming support of all true Malaysians who regard Malaysia as their home and the object of their love and loyalty. It is a bold step to take now, and not committing to doing what is just and fair is not an option.

It is a brave new world out there and we must be in the mainstream of the new movement for progress, peace and prosperity grounded in basic principles of fairness, justice and equity for all the people of Malaysia. Without this commitment to social change, Malaysia will never be in a position to realise its full potential.

Let me make a public declaration of my status in view of the continuing debate on whether a person is Chinese, Malay, Indian, or whatever our race, is first or Malaysian first. I am Malay in cultural terms just as a Chinese cannot be anything but Chinese culturally. Malaysian is a political term and has nothing to do with any culture because you cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim that there is a Malaysian cultural tradition. There is none.

That having said, what is important is to do in our daily lives what is in the best interests of our country. Malaysian first is no better than 1 Malaysia unless we are willing to make a commitment to subordinate our natural instincts to preserve our Malayness or Chineseness and submit ourselves to the higher and nobler cause and demands for a 1 Malaysian Malaysia.

Therein lies the future of this great country. Are we up to the challenge? —

Friday, January 7, 2011

malaysiakini: Public integrity is dead... by Josh Hong

Public integrity is dead
Josh Hong
malaysiakini, Jan 7, 2011, 1:48pm
In 1993, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago became embroiled in allegations of sexual abuse. To defend his Catholic faith and clear his name, he instructed the church to set up an investigation panel. He also refrained from making negative comments on the case and asked his lawyer not to apply any form of pressure on the claimed victim.

As it turned out, the claimed victim admitted he had identified the wrong person due to loss of memory. There was also lack of circumstantial evidence. He withdrew the case and apologised to Bernardin.

Later, the cardinal spoke about the humiliation and pains that he had suffered in the wake of the false accusation, stating that he had chosen to remain silent because he did not want to undermine the accuser's integrity as a person.

He also hoped that by doing so, he would create an environment that would be safe and assuring enough for more victims to come forward so that the church could deal with its own sin and reconcile with those who had been wronged. In the end, not only was he vindicated, he also proved his living faith in God.

While the moral leadership that the Bernardin case demonstrates may not be fully applicable to a secular context, it indicates certain leadership qualities nonetheless. First, a political leader must be consistent, humble, honest, self-disciplined and possess some positive values; second, a political leader must be duty-bound to safeguard and improve social justice, and show fairness to him/herself, colleagues, rivals and the masses.

Do we have a leader like this in Malaysia?

After Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas delivered an open verdict on the cause of Teoh Beng Hock death the day before, a Malaysian Insider article reported Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak as among the winners.

What winners did the journalist talk about unless those who only did so at the expense of justice, not to mention the pains and sorrows on the part of Teoh's bereaved family - especially his wife with a posthumous son?

It is clear that the finding has been a cunning one: It exonerates (for now) the MACC from the accusation of having caused Teoh to die young, while ruling out suicide. Perhaps one should now blame Teoh for having chosen to work as a political aide in the first place?

More time to deflect uproar

Make no mistake - this ambivalent verdict is politically-driven, reflecting precisely the wishy-washy character of the man in charge of Putrajaya. It gives the man more time to deflect the potential uproar from the masses should the truth be found, and to engineer a way out of the morass not only for himself but for his political colleagues also.

With the next general election just around the corner, the man cannot allow controversial issues to jeopardise his chances of reclaiming the two-third majority in Parliament that his ruling coalition has been so shamelessly and avariciously coveting.

The man is, of course, Najib the 'winner'. Justice is denied but victory is in sight. How convenient.

It has been almost two years since Najib took over the leadership from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Still, there has not been a semblance of substantive reform by the government; neither do we see in the 1Malaysia prime minister any valuable ideals or moral directions. All that we witness is the continued erosion of social, political and judicial integrity.

Najib is the slickest prime minister that this country has ever produced, utterly bereft of core values at the same time. He is not hesitant to resort to openly endorsing the culture of bribery (remember you help me, I help you), and has no qualms boasting publicly how he has survived in the treacherous political terrain within Umno by choosing the right side.
Be guileful and prosper

In other words, the secrets of Najib's successful ascension to the highest political office are not a set of values or a certain political ideology, but fence-sitting, double-dealing and duplicity. He is practically telling our future generations: Be guileful, so that thou may prosper!

As deputy prime minister, Najib once came under enormous pressure over the shocking murder of Altantuya. Despite the SMS exchanges between him and the accused Abdul Razak Baginda - his then close associate - which implied political intervention in the judicial process, he escaped the witness box unscathed.

When private investigator P Balasubramanian went public with Najib's association with the Mongolian victim by way of a statutory declaration, all that Najib did was swear his innocence in a mosque. Most ominously, Balasubramanian has since vanished from Malaysia.

With this hair-raising episode in mind, can we now blame the Indonesian maid who claims to have been raped by a Malaysian minister for not being willing to come forward with more evidence and witnesses?

Rais Yatim is rumoured to be the perpetrator. In June 2007, he was nominated for the Commonwealth secretary-general's post. There was much publicity and promotion for his candidacy then, but it was withdrawn all at a sudden one month later. The whole turnaround was shrouded in secrecy.

Rais, too, is a political chameleon. He left Umno in 1988 and joined the now-defunct Semangat 46, rising to the No 2 position and even writing a PhD thesis that argued against the notorious Internal Security Act. Having rejoined Umno in 1996, his political career again took off. In 2000, he overturned the conclusion in his thesis by saying that it was purely an cademic exercise.

But Najib retains a character such as this in his cabinet because they share the same values. If Rais is adamant about his innocence, he should invite the Indonesian national to Malaysia to help in investigations so that he can clear his name, instead of issuing veiled threats against those who comment on the issue. (Yes, I am mindful of Rocky's dubious past and hidden agenda, but let's save it for another article.)

No doubt, Najib does fight back from time to time, but his tactics are far less than gentlemanly, especially when the speaker of the Dewan Rakyat comes in handy. The banning of Anwar Ibrahim and other opposition lawmakers is a flagrant violation of democratic principles, and more so when Najib himself has consistently refused to be cross-examined over all the allegations involving him. Sheer cowardice and humbuggery, to say the least.

With a prime minister like this, should we then be crying foul over the open verdict on Teoh death? This ambiguous result in fact best reflects the ore values of the most powerful man in the country. Seen in this light, we should cease all expectations in regard to other victims of institutional violence: Kugan Ananthan, Aminulrasyid Amzah, and countless others.

Even so, Najib will be fervently supported and cherished by his coalition partners. After all, this is a country where justice has lost its meaning while public integrity has departed.

JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What gives a man or woman the right to lead?.... by Soo Choo

What gives a man or woman the right to lead?

by Soo Choo on Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 10:07pm

It certainly isn't gained by election or appointment. Having position, title, rank, or degrees doesn't qualify anyone to lead other people. And the ability doesn't come automatically from age or experience, either.

No, it would be accurate to say that no one can be given the right to lead. The right to lead can only be earned. And that takes time.

The key to becoming an effective leader is not to focus on making other people follow, but on making yourself the kind of person they want to follow. You must become someone others can trust to take them where they want to go.

As you prepare yourself to become a better leader, use the following guidelines to help you grow:
  • Let go of your ego. The truly great leaders are not in leadership for personal gain. They lead in order to serve other people. Perhaps that is why Lawrence D. Bell remarked, "Show me a man who cannot bother to do little things, and I'll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things." 
  • Become a good follower first. Rare is the effective leader who didn't learn to become a good follower first. That is why a leadership institution such as the United State Military Academy teaches its officers to become effective followers first - and why West Point has produced more leaders than the Harvard Business School.
  • Build positive relationships. Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. That means it is by nature relational. Today's generation of leaders seem particularly aware of this because title and position mean so little to them. They know intuitively that people go along with people they get along with.
  • Work with excellence. No one respects and follows mediocrity. Leaders who earn the right to lead give their all to what they do. They bring into play not only their skills and talents, but also great passion and hard work. They perform on the highest level of which they are capable.
  • Rely on discipline, not emotion. Leadership is often easy during the good times. It's when everything seems to be against you - when you're out of energy, and you don't want to lead - that you earn your place as a leader. During every season of life, leaders face crucial moments when they must choose between gearing up or giving up. To make it through those times, rely on the rock of discipline, not the shifting sand of emotion.
  • Make adding value your goal. When you look at the leaders whose names are revered long after they have finished leading, you find that they were men and women who helped people to live better lives and reach their potential. That is the highest calling of leadership - and its highest value.
  • Give your power away. One of the ironies of leadership is that you become a better leader by sharing whatever power you have, not by saving it all for yourself. You're meant to be a river, not a reservoir. If you use your power to empower others, your leadership will extend far beyond your grasp.
      From the book, "The Right to Lead" by John Maxwell

      malaysiakini: Fan Yew Teng: Recalling a towering Malaysian.... by Joseph Sipalan

      Fan Yew Teng: Recalling a towering Malaysian
      Joseph Sipalan
      Jan 6, 2011

      Freedom fighter, husband, father, friend, teacher, true Malaysian.

      These were among the many fond descriptions given to veteran activist and DAP strongman Fan Yew Teng, as family, friends and comrades came together to honour his legacy during a memorial last night in Kuala Lumpur.
      NONEAbout 250 people packed into the YMCA hall in Brickfields, staying three hours to share their cherished memories of their time spent with the charismatic Fan, who died last Dec 7 after a year battling with prostate cancer.

      More than 20 people took to the rostrum to speak of Fan and how much he had influenced their lives, with his unyielding zest for life and indomitable spirit in the pursuit of justice.
      Among those who spoke at the memorial were DAP national chairman Karpal Singh, party life advisor Dr Chen Man Hin, DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, former Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim) secretary-general Mohd Anuar Tahir, Fan's wife Dr Noeleen Heyzer and his twin daughters Lilianne (above right) and Pauline.

      They spoke of vastly different experiences with Fan, who convinced Karpal to contest his first ever election in Alor Star, Kedah in August 1974 despite the latter just losing his father to a road accident three months earlier.

      Anuar also recounted how Fan endeared himself to everyone in Abim as a staff member of the Islamic organisation, saying how Fan's openness in studying the Quran impressed everyone to the point that he was light-heartedly called ustaz Fan by Abim staff.
      Far from being one-dimensional, Noeleen (right) shared how her late husband - who did not like flying - was a man willing to take risks and sacrifices for love, literally travelling thousands of miles over sea and land, going through India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Europe to join her in England where she was studying in the 1970s.
      "And just as he took risks and sacrifices for our love, he did the same for his principles," she said.

      Alternative Asean Network (Altsean) coordinator Debbie Stothard, who had worked closely with Fan in the 1990s when protesting on Burma issues, said Fan's sense of humour was also an integral part of what made him such a charismatic leader.

      She said anyone around him could not help but be won over by his boundless energy and strength of character, adding jokingly that they would feel safe with Fan around during protests because he would be the first one the police would go after.

      But even with the many different experiences Fan had imparted to those around him, they all saw the same fire and passion that drove the man in his pursuit of freedom, equality, democracy and peace.
      As Lim Guan Eng (right) said when eulogising the multi-talented leader, Fan was a "true patriot" whose only wish was to have a truly equal, democratic and peaceful Malaysia.

      "In that sense, Fan was a towering Malaysian. Not towering in the sense of building 100-storey buildings or accumulating ill-gotten gains or abusing power and exploiting fellow Malaysians, but a towering Malaysian in ideas, ideals, faith, hope and love."

      A second memorial will be held at the 14th floor of the Excelsior Hotel in Ipoh later this evening.

      malaysiakini: Suaram demands Coroner's Act

      Suaram demands Coroner's Act
      Jan 6, 11 3:45pm

      Suaram wants a royal commission to investigate the death of Teoh Beng Hock and other deaths in custody, as well as to address "gaps in the current law enforcement system".

      The human rights NGO expressed disappointment over Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas' open verdict yesterday on the death of the DAP aide.

      NONE"The verdict... failed to determine the cause of death of Teoh Beng Hock (left) and bring those responsible to justice for the death of Teoh. Suaram remains concerned over the process of inquests into deaths in custody.

      "Suaram calls for a royal commission to investigate all other cases of death in custody, including the recent death of Teoh Beng Hock, and to address gaps in the current law enforcement system with the view of providing critical reform and change in our system, especially in ensuring human rights values in law enforcement initiatives and investigations."

      The NGO attacked the credibility and independence of the inquest, and is pressing for the establishment of a Coroners Act as well as a Coroner's Court as recommended by the parliamentary select committee on the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code in 2006.

      "It has become critical for the government to implement the Coroners Act to provide an accountability mechanism to ensure human rights compliance by law enforcement agencies," the NGO said.

      It also wants the Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission Act (EAIC) to be implemented without further delay.

      The EAIC bill was tabled in Parliament in 2009 and passed, but it has yet to be enforced to date, said Suaram.

      Yesterday, in the closing chapter of the inquest that began on July 29, 2009, the coroner had ruled out both suicide and homicide and settled for an open verdict.

      On July 16 last year Teoh had been called in to assist in investigations against his boss, Selangor state exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah, regarding allegations of misappropriation of funds.

      He was questioned overnight at the MACC headquarters at Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam, and was found dead on the fifth floor landing of the building the next afternoon.

      'MACC accountable'
      Meanwhile, the Bar Council in a press statement today also supported the call for a Royal Commission.

      NONEBar Council president Ragunath Kesavan (right) said such indecisive findings cast grave doubts on the effectiveness of the inquest mechanism and rendered the whole process meaningless.

      "The coroner failed to consider a vital aspect of the matter: Teoh was under the custody of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) when he died, which invariably places the burden on the MACC to account for his death.

      "In addition, the coroner ought to have reprimanded the conduct of the investigating officer in respect of the introduction of the handwritten note midway through the inquest, and ordered further investigation into his conduct."

      malaysiakini: Malay problem root of nation's problem... by AB Sulaiman

      Malay problem root of nation's problem
      AB Sulaiman
      Jan 6, 2011, 1:43pm
      COMMENT About a year and a bit ago, the Old Boys' Association of the Royal Military College otherwise known as 'Old Putras' organised an evening of discourse. 
      The forum noted that the Malaysian people were fragmented, the economy at a virtual standstill, and democracy eroded by dictatorship, returning feudalism, and theocracy. Those present wanted to analyse the degeneration and like good citizens we were to come up with some solutions.

      It was then that one speaker, Mohd Dahan if I remember correctly, who stood up to say, “Solve the Malay problem, and you solve the country's problem.” Now we are in the first month of the second decade of the 21st century, the ring of truth in his statement still prevails.

      But at this time, 53 years after independence and 10 years to becoming a high-income country, it appears we are still embedded deep in a long list of unsolved national problems, with many getting worse than before.

      Here are but some of them: A restive and fragmented population, high migration rate, poor rate of growth, broken public institutions like education and the judiciary, high crime rate, degenerating personal and public morality, price increases, inflation, and a generally authoritative, intimidating and arrogant government. Our comparative indices with other countries like in areas of transparency, human rights, education, are all on the downward swing.

      And corruption, the perennial social cancer, taking place at the highest possible level, involving amounts that would make Carlos Slim (currently the richest man in the world according to Forbes) and Bill Gates almost poor by comparison.

      Hope lies eternal, so let's see whether we can try to solve at least some of the national problems, by first solving some Malay problems, for this coming year.

      But first, what exactly is the 'Malay problem'?

      Unable to break the inertia

      My observation of this matter stemmed from the collective Malay lack of knowledge and of modern technical skills and thereby negatively reflected in the country's wealth distribution scenario.
      In 1957 the record books indicated that Malay economic involvement was no more than at a paltry 2 percent. This is not good at all as viewed and agreed on by the founding fathers and every meaningful citizen of whatever ethnic background.

      Since then the Malays have been given all opportunities to be more fruitfully involved in the country's economic activities. In 1970, a name was given to this ground-breaking exercise known as social engineering under the New Economic Policy.

      Lavishly-funded government policies and programmes were introduced to even the playing field for Malay incursion into the national economy.

      But try as they might, the Malays could not manage to break the inertia and achieve any planning targets. (Please spare me the need to repeat even some of the details for they have been pretty well and regularly documented by proponents, supporters and critics alike.)

      This was to me the first time the Malay problem surfaced. It's that the perception that Malay economic backwardness (and 'problem') is solely economic in its cause and could largely be solved under the NEP.
      In fact its architect, Abdul Razak Hussein, asked for 20 years for the project implementation; surely thinking that this period was enough to see the Malay through.

      Sadly, history has indicated there has been a fundamental flaw in this presumption. In reality, his economic ineptitude being one, but far more is his psychological or mental deficiency.

      Psychological or mental? Yes. He has this innate inability to realise that upon independence the country was morphing progressively into a new era: From old to new, rural to urban, agrarian to manufacturing, ancient to modern. From a life aligned with nature and the natural featured by myth, magic, miracle and mystery, to one surrounded and led by technical principles and science. It was an era of change.

      Change requires a few mental subtleties. First there must be awareness or consciousness of the advent of change, and second, it requires a willingness to adapt to it. Without these two, any change is but a natural progression. The mind must therefore be equipped to be conscious and be aware of change. This is what the Malay did not have. 

      Ketuanan Melayu

      History tells us that the Malay has not been able to produce the thinking faculty to recognise the coming of change to begin with. Hardly surprising therefore for him to show an inability to adapt at the appropriate time. He has no ability to accept and adapt to change.

      So this is to me the root of the 'Malay problem'.

      This inability to change again to me reflects the inner features and characteristics of Malay thinking:

      i) It is ethnocentric: it believes in the superiority of its own type over all other types.
      ii) It is non-scientific: it believes in not yet ascertained truth and in non-provable ones.
      iii) It is quick in denial.
      iv) It is not aware of its mistakes.

      They would produce the following end-product or behaviour patterns:
      v) The Malay is a superior race.
      vi) Islam is the one and only religion that gets approval from God Almighty.
      vii) These are irrefutable truths.
      viii) Anyone denying the above is a traitor to the race and an apostate to religion.

      Items (i) to (iv) indicate that the Malay is racially conscious and highly religion bound. Items (v) to (viii) reveal his racism and religious tendencies. They in turn at least partially explain the favourite Malay ideology 'untuk agama, bangsa dan negara'.

      They have also been personified by the ketuanan Melayu entity, and giving rise to the Perkasa movement.

      Doubters to this contention might wish to counter check: Are ketuanan Melayu and Perkasa not ethnocentric? They are for championing 'Malay rights' when the constitution says it's only Malay 'special privileges'.

      They are also non-scientific for championing Islam, or at least the government-approved version of Islam: Sunni sect, Imam Shafie line, and until recently, Islam Hadhari variety.

      Who then are ketuanan Melayu members? To me, the ketuanan Melayu entity comprises those who generally harbour the eight features just mentioned above. As individuals they are:

      i) The ruling party members, especially Umno leaders;
      ii) The civil servants running the government machinery;
      iii) The officers and personnel running government agencies like the police, military, customs, immigration, etc.;
      iv) The ulama whose job is to protect and propagate Islam;
      v) Political chiefs aspiring to get to the top of the party ladder.

      It's eerie to think the obvious - that this list would net almost the entire educated, urban, middle class, Malay population. And they are the embodiment of the Malay problem!

      In other words, the root, core, essence of the Malay problem is the Malay collective culture!

      Shameful performance

      How has this collective culture been performing as the top leaders and managers of the country? Well, unless I am grossly wrong, you can't create something good out of something rotten. Ketuanan Melayu (i.e. racism and religious fundamentalism) to me is something definitely rotten. So Malay supremacy has been able to create in the last decade or so the following:

      a) Bending the laws to suit Malay interests. In this case the constitution has been amended a record 40 times (with 650 individual amendments) since 1957. Compare this with the US that has amended its constitution about 27 times since its founding. Or, Singapore, four times. Racism is institutionalised in this country!
      b) Breaking the thin line between Syariah and civil laws. The supremacy of the constitution has been eroded.
      c. Breaking down of institutions like the check and balance features of democratic governance. Democracy is all but dead. Have the periodic general elections, and that's it, democracy is observed. Whatever happens in between is another matter altogether.
      d) The flagrant use of lies, deceit, hooliganism on the part of the ruling elite against its own people. There is this massive breaking down of individual and public morality.

      There are countless thousands of others.

      We come back to Dahan's wisdom. Now that we have re-acquainted ourselves with the Malay problem, how do we go about solving it?

      This is no easy task for the obstacles are enormous. On the one side we have a people under the ketuanan Melayu ambit digging deep into the fortress of race and religion and not at all ashamed to use the political power available at its disposal. To the Malay, the saying that the ends justify the means is enshrined in gold.

      The government and ketuanan Melayu are not about to let go easily. They are deep in the quagmire of lies, deceit, corruption, even sin and criminality. Only by them staying in power will they be able to prevent the law from taking its course.

      On the other side we have the 21st century world demanding a 21st century open and flexible mind. Some of them are: Technical ability, professionalism, openness, honesty, fairness, justice, morality, transparency, responsibility, accountability and integrity.


      Whatever programme we have to solve the Malay problem, two elements must be present: The secularisation of the Malay mind and the restoration of basic human rights to the peoples of Malaysia.

      It has to be repeated that it won't be easy.

      But hope against hope, the government must restore power to the people; the ulama must come to terms with universal realities. Civil servants too should reorient their thinking to serve the people rather than the politicians.

      And the people, the average Malay down the road, must come to realise that the world is not an oyster, that individualism is the key to any personal or national development.

      How can all these be achieved? Thinking influences behaviour - the ketuanan Melayu Malay mind must change from its ethnocentricity and non-scientific features to one of openness, fairness, rationality and respect for other men. 

      Develop the sense of the individual in him. Secularise Malay thinking. Open his closed mind. Go for secular education. Teach philosophy in schools. Do not teach children about religion until they are able to think for themselves.

      Do anything to make the Malay more receptive for change. Then perhaps we can begin to solve the Malay problem, in 2011 and onwards.

      AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human traits and foibles, especially within the context of religion and culture. As a liberal, he marvels at the way orthodoxy fights to maintain its credibility in a devilishly fast-changing world. He hopes to provide some understanding to the issues at hand and wherever possible, suggest some solutions. He holds a Bachelor in Social Sciences (Leicester, UK) and a Diploma in Public Administration, Universiti Malaya.